Dated Hd. Qrs. Armies C. S. Feb. 24th. 1865.
Rec[eive]d. at Richmond 5 O’Clock P.M.
To His Excellency Jefferson Davis
Hampton reports from Chesterville yesterday evening no enemy nearer than White Oak. A large force of Cavalry moved from Hopewell Church towards Rocky-mount ferry on Wateree. Butler is across river and Hampton will place himself in front of enemy, leaving a brigade to press his rear. Cheatam on 22nd. was reported at Jones ferry on Ennonee. He and Stewart are marching via Unionville and Chesterville. Hardee is ordered to hasten his march from Cheraw. Genl. Beauregard thinks enemy’s movements indicate march on Cheraw and Fayetteville.(1) Have suggested to Genl. Johnston that he may be endeavoring to reach Pedee Valley for subsistance. Hardee would then be in position, and that all provisions, stores, cattle &c. should be removed. Genl. Taylor reports from Meridian on 15th. that twenty five (25) transports reached Vicksburg on 13th loaded with troops under General Thomas[.] (2)
R E Lee
Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:
(1) Reported in Beauregard to Lee, February 24, 1865 (O. R., 47, 2, 1267). Several mistakes in names are made in the dispatch as forwarded by General Lee “Chesterville” should be “Chesterfield,” “Ennonee” should be “Ennoree,” and “Cheatam” should be “Cheatham.”
(2) Sent without comment, these items of news confirmed the gloomy forecast which General Lee made in a dispatch of February 22, 1865, to the Secretary of War (O. R., 46, 2, 1247) when he declared that the advance of Sherman must be stopped. Nothing could be done to strengthen the outlying, unprotected sections of the country, he stated “until I abandon James River.” He concluded: “You will see to what straits we are reduced; but I trust to work out.”
- Editor’s Note: Many Confederate records from 1864 were lost during Lee’s retreat from Richmond and Petersburg. As a result, many useful primary sources from the Confederate side are simply never going to be available. What might be less well known is that not all of Robert E. Lee’s known writings from the time of the Petersburg Campaign were put into the Official Records. In 1915, some of Lee’s previously unpublished letters and dispatches to Jefferson Davis and the War Department were published in Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America, 1862-65. These letters and dispatches came from the private collection of Wymberley Jones De Renne of Wormsloe, Georgia. Many of these letters and telegrams contain insight into the Siege of Petersburg, and will appear here 150 years to the day after they were written by Lee. The numbering system used in the book will also be utilized here, but some numbers may be missing because the corresponding letter or dispatch does not pertain directly to the Siege of Petersburg. ↩
- Freeman, Douglas Southall (ed.). Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C. S. A. to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America 1862-65. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915, pp. 336-337 ↩